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Recently there has been a public outcry in regards to the alleged “Trojan Horse” allegations in my second home city which has not been allowed for the public to view it for themselves but instead there have been many leaked documents via the press and social media yet nobody has seen Sir Micheal Wilshaw full report.
Today Ofsted has published inspection reports into 21 state-funded non-faith schools in Birmingham.
I’ve also sent an advice note to the Secretary of State that draws on evidence from these inspections and from meetings I held with professional associations and Birmingham City Council.
I also spoke at length to a number of headteachers about their concerns.
Some of our findings are deeply worrying and in some ways, deeply shocking.
While a number of these schools are doing well and providing their children with a good, well-rounded education, there are others that give cause for grave concern.
In the most serious cases, a culture of fear and intimidation has taken grip since the schools were last inspected.
We found evidence that some headteachers, including those with a proud record of raising standards, have been marginalised or forced out of their jobs.
This has left a vacuum in which schools previously rated good or outstanding have suffered enormous staff turbulence, a collapse in morale and a rapid decline in their overall effectiveness.
The inspection report of the Education Funding Agency support my judgement that there has been a sudden and steep decline in these schools.
Therefore I have full confidence in the judgements of both the previous and present inspections.
Her Majesty’s inspectors found that governors are exerting far more influence on the day-to-day running of these schools than is either appropriate or acceptable.
Trust between governors and staff has broken down and the authority of headteachers undermined.
A number of headteachers reported that there has been an organised campaign to target certain schools in Birmingham in order to impose a narrow faith-based ideology and alter the school’s character and ethos.
Some teachers reporter that they were treated unfairly because of their gender or their religious beliefs.
Inspectors also uncovered evidence of unfair or opaque recruitment practices including examples of relatives begin appointed to unadvertised senior posts.
In some schools inspectors found that leaders have not adequately addressed the risks specific to their community.
In particular, they are not taking seriously enough their duty to safeguard children against the potential risks associated with extremism and radicalisation. Systems for vetting new staff and external visitors are sometimes poor.
For example, a speaker with known extremist views was invited to speak to students in one of the schools inspected.
Our evidence points to a serious failure on the part of Birmingham City Council – a failure to support schools in their efforts to keep pupils safe from the risk of extremism.
There’s been a lack of urgency in the council’s response to persistent complaints from headteachers about the conduct of certain governors.
We also found that a number of academies are in breach of important aspects of their funding agreements with the Education Funding Agency.
It’s really important all our schools – whether they’re faith schools or secular schools – promote the values of wider British society.
This is especially true for schools that serve culturally homogenous communities such as those we inspected in Birmingham.
These schools are often the only places where children have the chance to learn about other faiths, other cultures and other ways of living.
Some of the schools we inspected are undoubtedly doing well, not just academically, but in preparing their students to live and prosper in modern Britain.
However, we found that in other schools, children are not being encouraged to develop tolerant attitudes to other faiths and other cultures.
Boys and girls are not always treated equally and although exam results are often good, the curriculums become too narrow, reflecting the personal views of a small number of governors rather than the wider community in Birmingham and beyond.
So today in my advice note to the Secretary of State I am making a number of important recommendations to address the issues that we’ve identified in our inspection findings.
I urge the Government and others to take these measures forward without delay.
It has been purported that these included Park View School, Golden Hillock School and Nansen Primary, run by the Park View Educational Trust.
A summary of the inspectors’ findings is below
Previous rating outstanding
New rating Inadequate
• “The academy’s work to raise students’ awareness of the risks of extremism is inadequate.”
• “External speakers have not been vetted properly. For example, those who speak to students as part of a programme of Islamic-themed assemblies.”
• “Students are not taught how to use the internet safely. They are not taught sex and relationships education effectively.”
• “Equality of opportunity is not promoted well.”
• “There are few opportunities for students to learn about different types of beliefs and cultures in the older year groups. Students are not taught citizenship well enough or prepared properly for life in a diverse and multi-cultural society.”
• “Governors have failed to ensure that safeguarding requirements and other statutory duties are met.”
• Use, in liaison with the police, of the government’s Prevent strategy to identify and avoid extremism has only taken place for students in years 7 and 8. Moreover, most staff have not received training in the Prevent programme, although there are now plans for this to take place.
Previous rating not previously inspected
New rating Inadequate
• “The academy’s work to keep students safe is inadequate. Key safeguarding procedures are not followed. Too little is done to keep students safe from the risks associated with extremist views.”
• “The equalities policy is not fit for purpose.”
• “The curriculum has weaknesses. For example, sex and relationships education has not been delivered through a carefully planned curriculum. Governors have only very recently approved the policy.”
• Some staff, including senior leaders, are concerned about a perceived unfairness and lack of transparency in the recruitment process and the breadth and balance of the curriculum.
• “Staff views are polarised about the leadership of the school. Some female members of staff complained to Her Majesty’s Inspectors that at times they are spoken to in a manner which they find intimidating.”
• “Governance is inadequate. The governing body has met infrequently since it was reconstituted at the time of the formation of the academy. It does not carry out the full range of its functions.”
Previous rating Not previously inspected
New rating Inadequate
• “Governance, safety, pupils’ cultural development, equal opportunities and the teaching of religious education are all inadequate.”
• “The governing body and senior leaders do not adopt effective strategies that develop pupils’ awareness of the risks of extremism or radicalisation.”
• “Leaders do not sufficiently develop pupils’ understanding of the different customs, traditions or religions that exist in Britain. This does not prepare pupils adequately for life in modern Britain.”
• “Pupils have limited knowledge of religious beliefs other than Islam.”
I am pleased that the Home Secretary has challenged Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, as I believe his current interventions in the so called Trojan Horse affair have increased delay and confusion, and bear the hallmarks of someone seeking to divert attention from their actions – or, more likely, their inaction – rather than seeking to pursue the best interests of children and parents.
He seems to be deflecting blame about the impact of his policies and approach, and as a consequence undermining the credibility of those seeking to uncover the facts concerning anonymous allegations, and eroding the confidence – particularly in the Muslim community – that public bodies are objectively supporting the interests of children rather than following other agendas.
When there were already four enquiries underway, making a fifth appointment and not allowing that person to join up with the other enquiries was frankly unhelpful. But then appointing an Education Commissioner with no education governance experience, but who was a senior policeman whose expertise was in combatting violent extremism, clearly sends the message that the Secretary of State for Education had already reached a conclusion as to what he thought or even hoped the problem was.
Such an appointment might make sense from a cynical political view of deflecting interest or muddying the waters, but has created major problems for local public bodies. We now have the position that even if clear, incontrovertible evidence of schools’ failure in both academic standards and financial management is uncovered, there is likely to be resistance to accountability on the basis that any such findings are driven by discrimination against the Muslim community rather than an objective assessment.
The delayed Ofsted reports, leaking out bit by bit, are unlikely to be seen as the independent final word as there is significant evidence of changes between drafts. This will be compounded by the likely changes in overall assessment when the Ofsted reports finally see the light of day.
Ofsted will struggle to justify why schools rated as outstanding a few months ago are now considered inadequate. Has there been such a fundamental change in that period? If not, why did they not inspect on those new factors in the previous report?
I have no doubt that there is evidence of socially conservative orthodox religious individuals seeking to have their views reflected in local schools. I think there are issues in this that do raise important concerns about how we educate and safeguard our children to be part of modern society and to be protected from a number of key risks.
However, the question I think Michael Gove needs to answer is that if he were made aware of socially conservative orthodox religious Christians, Jews, or Sikhs seeking influence in schools, would he react in the same way? Many, not just in the Muslim community, would suspect his reaction would be to throw millions of pounds at them and encourage them to open free schools.
Our greatest ally in the fight against violent extremists is the support of the community itself. When a community feels political games are being played that seek to depict their religion in a negative way it will make the fight against violent extremists so much more difficult.
The question is Do I believe Ofsted, do I believe Mr Gove over these claims? Could there be this hidden world in the Schools that Ofsted have never noticed? Is this a deflection tactic by Gove and the Tories?
Well, something may have happened. Perhaps but on the scale of how alarmist the coverage is! No. I just do not buy this view Ofsted used because as a inspectorate teachers fear every aspect of their inspections. They are scared because they leave no stone unturned. So how could they miss this issue on such a large scale?
I feel Ofsted has been too draconian and not up to the job for some time. Instead of working with teachers they have created an them and us situation. What more how can any of us believe what Gove says? This all smacks of a deflection tactic to cover for things Gove has done or not done.
Now of course if there are serious wrong doing with how teaching is taught it has to be rooted out. However, I feel that there is more hype and overblown views being expressed then actual facts to this issue.
The Tories loves grandstanding as they then make out they are doing something. But as ever if feels like the Tories are using a sledge hammer to crack a nut
“Ultimately religion is a second order issue here. What’s most important may be one of the most toxic legacies of this awful government: the fact that from plummeting morale among teachers, through a mounting shortage of primary school places, to the glaring failings of the free schools programme, and now this latest controversy – we have a state education system in complete disarray. In a story replete with smokescreens and diversions, no one should forget that.”
Gove wants British values taught. He has emphasised Gender equality, Democracy, tolerance. etc. Yet this society is far from having gender equality. Our democratic system is on its knees and as for tolerance , he probably only thinks it should be shown to people who tow the party line.